The Big Gigs: Our critics' music picks

  • Updated: January 29, 2010 - 2:23 PM
POP/ROCK

Scoring a ticket to the Current's 5th anniversary party will come down to luck and/or brandishing the right accent at the door to pass as Mark Wheat's long-lost sibling, but the all-local all-star lineup merits the effort. Not just local fan favorites, the show features England's favorite Minnesota dance-rock band, Solid Gold; the Warped Tour's favorite rapper, P.O.S.; Jack Johnson's favorite non-surfing singer/songwriter, Mason Jennings; and the makers of local critics' second and fourth favorite albums of 2009, synth-pop duo Lookbook and ex-Trip Shakespeareans the Twilight Hours. (8:30 p.m. Fri., First Avenue. Sold out.) (C.R.)

Scheduled headliner Howie Day was sidelined at the last minute by health issues, but his opening act, Canada's Alanis-inclined Serena Ryder, will still perform, along with Matt Lowell. And it's now a free show. Ticketholders are advised to hang on for a rescheduled Day date. (9 p.m. Fri., Fine Line, $20.) (J.B.) 

 

If you're bummed about the Slayer/Megadeth tour getting postponed, thrash-metal bands Arch Enemy and Exodus might provide a little consolation. The latter group also came out of the '80s scene and helped break in Kirk Hammett before he joined Metallica. Arch Enemy is a Swedish band featuring former members of Armageddon and Carnage tearing it up behind female screamer Angela Gossow. Arsis, Mutiny Within and Nuisance open. (6:30 p.m. Sat., the Rock. All ages. $23-$26.) (C.R.)

One night after he hangs in the shadows orchestrating Lookbook's whirring melodies and dance beats onstage at First Avenue, Grant Cutler takes the spotlight next door in the Entry with his somber new song-driven rock band, the Gorgeous Lords. He plays guitars and sings alongside former Askeleton players Noah Pastor and Scott Johnson and ex-Plastic Constellations drummer Matt Scharenbroich. They're playing with punky low-bottom trio Kill to Kill, Blue Sky Blackout and IS/IS, the latter featuring young women from First Communion Afterparty and Gospel Gossip. (9 p.m. Sat., 7th Street Entry. 18 & older. $5.) (C.R.)

Before they got all electronic and atmospheric on us in (the much-loved) Halloween, Alaska, singer/guitarist James Diers and drummer David King used to crank it up and pound it out in Love-cars, a stormy, poetic, "alternative"-era rock quartet also featuring King's ex-12 Rods mate Matthew Foust on guitar and bassist Alex Gaddis. After three buzz-generating albums,the band slowly faded as Diers temporarily moved away and King went international with his jazz bands the Bad Plus and Happy Apple. This why-the-hell-not performance will be Love-cars' first since 2007. The Evening Rig and Colder in Moscow open. (9 p.m. Sat., Triple Rock, 18 & older. $8-$10.) (C.R.)

These two fancy-pickin' veterans have played with more Hall of Famers than Brett Favre has. Jorma Kaukonen is a co-founder of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna whose latest album, the folk-oriented "River of Time," came out on Red House last year. Guitarist/mandolinist David Bromberg has played with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jerry Garcia and Willie Nelson, among others. He's released only one solo album in the past 20 years: 2007's "Try Me One More Time," featuring traditional blues and witty originals. (5 & 9 p.m. Sun., Cedar Cultural Center, Mpls., $40-$50.) (J.B.)

One of the most deeply emotional and physically emotive R&B singers on the planet, Bettye LaVette saw her profile increase last winter with performances at the Kennedy Center Honors and President Obama's inaugural. Her indelibly moving readings of the Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" and Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" complemented the repertoire from her three stellar albums of the '00s and her '60s R&B chestnuts. (7 p.m. Tue., Hopkins Center for the Arts, $33.) (J.B.)

At 70, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mavis Staples remains a vital American music treasure. Whether she's singing blues, gospel, R&B, rock or standards, she delivers them with a robust, earthy fervor. Her diverse catalog includes the Staple Singers' classics "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There," Dylan songs (he once proposed to her), selections from the Great American Songbook and tunes Prince wrote for her. (7 p.m. Wed.-Thu., Dakota Jazz Club, $45-$65.) (J.B.)

For 1,800 gigs over 12 years, Dark Star Orchestra has re-created an old Grateful Dead concert, song by song. The exciting news this time is DSO's move to the Varsity, which has a 1970s San Francisco ballroom vibe, and the arrival of lead guitarist/singer Jeff Matson, who has played with two post-Dead groups, Phil Lesh & Friends and the Donna Jean Godchaux Band. He'll take on the Jerry Garcia parts. (7 p.m. Wed., Varsity Theater, $25-$28.) (J.B.)

COUNTRY

Performing after the World's Toughest Rodeo is about as challenging as being a rodeo clown. But Mississippi native Randy Houser is the right man for the gig. His rousing honky-tonk will kick up some dirt, thanks to his hit "Boots On" and "Whistlin' Dixie." He may also sing hits he's written for others: "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" for Trace Adkins and "Back That Thing Up" for Justin Moore. (Rodeo starts at 7:30 p.m., concert at 9:45 p.m. Sat., Xcel Energy Center. $17-$80.) (J.B.)

BLUES

One of California's top blues talents, James Armstrong is a soulful singer, tasty guitarist and eloquent songwriter whose tunes have popped up on movie soundtracks and even TV's "The Young and the Restless," but sadly never got anywhere near the Billboard charts. So he's far less famous than Robert Cray, but in the same ballpark talent-wise, with a repertoire full of undiscovered gems. (9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Wilebski's Blues Saloon.) (T.S.)

Since they already put together a big Delta blues fest in Minnesota, it's a relatively small geographic leap for organizers of the Deep Blues Festival to throw a bash for the St. Paul Winter Carnival in Minneapolis. They're bringing in two mainstays of their summer fest to perform: Mississippian Kenny Brown, R.L. Burnside's longtime guitar ace and a terrific solo bluesman, and Tennessee-bred big man Mark (Porkchop) Holder. (9 p.m. Sat., Palmer's Bar. $5.) There is a St. Paul component to their event earlier in the day, with a seven-hour film fest made up of footage that's purportedly so underground, they can't advertise it for legal reasons. (Noon-7 p.m. Sat., St. Paul Eagles Club, 487 Maria Av.) (C.R.)

CLASSICAL

The Minnesota Orchestra duets with Judy Garland, via technological magic that shows the legendary singer onscreen while the orchestra plays arrangements (conducted by Doug Katsaros) of such hits as "Over the Rainbow" and "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart." Home movies, photos and film clips tell Garland's story and present her music. Katsaros is a composer, conductor and arranger who has worked on Broadway and with the likes of Frank Sinatra, B.B. King and Aerosmith. (8 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Orchestra Hall. $25-$86.) (G.R.)

Minnesota Opera favorite Brenda Harris returns to star as Queen Elizabeth I in Gaetano Donizetti's bel canto masterpiece "Roberto Devereux." A highly fictionalized version of the romance between Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex, it is one of Donizetti's most dramatic and innovative scores, full of the vocal pyrotechnics for which Harris is famous. Portuguese tenor Bruno Ribeiro makes his Minnesota Opera debut as Essex, with bel canto specialist Francesco Maria Colombo in the pit. (8 p.m. Sat.; 7:30 p.m. Tue., Thu. & Feb. 6; 2 p.m. Feb. 7, Ordway Center. $20-$200, 612-333-6669.) (W.R.B.)

To build new audiences, the Minnesota Orchestra is letting its hair down for a night to play the music of Led Zeppelin and Queen. Conductor Brent Havens has not only arranged the music of Zeppelin but he also brings vocalist Randy Jackson (a screamer from '80s metal band Zebra, not the "American Idol" guy), who has done his Robert Plant impressions here twice with the MnOrch. The Queen repertoire is new, with vocalist Brody Dolyniuk coming from Las Vegas to do his Freddie Mercury. (7:30 p.m. Thu., Target Center, $27-$77.) (J.B.)

What could be better than two consecutive afternoons of Beethoven string quartets, played by the Grammy-winning Pacifica Quartet in the second installment of its three-year Beethoven cycle for the Music in the Park Series? On Saturday, hear Nos. 1 and 13, with the "Grosse Fuge"; on Sunday, Nos. 3, 9 and 16. Arm yourself with "The Beethoven Quartet Companion," edited by Robert Winter and Robert Martin, and make a Bee-line for St. Anthony Park. (4 p.m., Jan. 30 and 31. St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ, 2129 Commonwealth Av., St. Paul. $45 for both concerts, $25 each, students $15. 651-645-5699.) (L.F.)

You should be able to catch both pianist-blogger Jeremy Denk's Frederic Chopin Society recital (with its lately amended coupling of Schumann's "Davidsbündertänze" and Bach's "Goldberg" Variations) and the homegrown string ensemble Accordo's Stravinsky-Ravel-Debussy mix (including the second local performance in a week of Ravel's rarely heard Sonata for Violin and Cello), without missing dinner. But if you prefer your music in smaller doses, Accordo's program is repeated Monday. (Denk: 3 p.m. Jan. 31. Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, Macalester College, 130 Macalester St., St. Paul. $20, students $12. 612-822-0123. Accordo: 7 p.m. Jan. 31, 8 p.m. Feb. 1. Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Av. S., Mpls. $20. 612-340-1725.) (L.F.)

JAZZ

Conga player and sultry singer Estaire Godinez is back to make Brazil seem just a samba and a swimsuit away. Her new CD, "This Time," has an impressive cast -- Eric Leeds, Peter Schimke, Serge Akou, J.D. Steele, Dirk Freymouth and longtime Justin Timberlake guitarist Mike Scott -- and most will be at this weekend's release parties. The disc includes radio-friendly takes of "Bésame Mucho" and "All or Nothing at All," the Shirley Horn favorite "You Won't Forget Me" and a Clint Eastwood number, "Why Should I Care?" (8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Dakota Jazz Club. $15.) (T.S.)

Get ready for a Battle of the Big Bands, presented by amiable KBEM-FM impresario Jerry Swanberg. The 19-piece Acme Jazz Company, led by saxman Doug Rasmussen, is only in its second year, but it has a star soloist and accomplished chart writer in Bob Parsons, back from New York where he recorded with Frank Kimbrough, Dave Stryker and other heavyweights. It will have stiff competition from Nova Jazz Orchestra, veterans of seven CDs championing original Minnesota music. Its new disc, "A Time of Reckoning," swings hard and surprises often. Expect brass, sass and class. (7:30 p.m. Thu., Minnetonka High School, 18375 Hwy. 7. $5-$10.) (T.S.)

Contributors: Staff critics Jon Bream, Chris Riemenschneider and Graydon Royce, and freelancers Tom Surowicz, Larry Fuchsberg and William Randall Beard.

 

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